Ruby Walsh’s decision to relinquish his duties at Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat stable was always going to leave a huge gulf in the finely tuned operation in Somerset, but the emerging news that number one jockey Daryl Jacob wouldn’t take the plum ride on returning legend Big Buck’s in next weekend’s Cleeve Hurdle has seen the spotlight beam firmly on the Nicholls yard.
Walsh’s sensational relationship with the four times Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner had seen the pair dominate the staying hurdling division, but due to his commitments with Willie Mullins, the Irishman was unable to commit to riding the multiple Grade One winner on Festival Trials Day and so many believed that the aforementioned Jacob would get the leg up on the ten-year-old.
However, nuances were propelling round racing circles with news that Nicholls was set for a meeting with Big Buck’s owner Andy Stewart about who would pilot Big Buck’s and it emerged over the weekend that it would actually be Sam Twiston-Davies who would get the call up on the staying sensation as Jacob was never ebullient to accept the ride.
Jacob’s promotion in the Nicholls ranks came at a transition period in the yard as a number of the old guard, that served up so many memorable wins, were retiring and the former champion trainer was trying to build up a new dynasty and Jacob is to be an integral cog of what has always been a well-oiled machine.
Jacob, who has made a positive start to his new position at Ditcheat, was thought to have felt that Big Buck’s was part of the abovementioned old brigade and that he was in a no-win situation as a defeat to the unbeaten hurdler would’ve rested firmly on his shoulders and not the horse, who is set to return to Cheltenham on January 25 after over a year off.
Nicholls, whose thoughts are etched in an insightful Betfair column stated that Jacob felt the ride on Big Buck’s was a poisoned chalice and so he would rather opt out partnering the veteran in the Cleeve Hurdle and this left the door open for Twiston-Davies who continues to strike up a cracking relationship with Nicholls after sitting on a number of his smart recruits this campaign.
Reams and reams have been etched by numerous scribes, but the fact of the matter is that one of the greatest horses of all time is set to return to the track and it is Twiston-Davies in which the telescope with fall on next Saturday as he looks to pilot the incomparable Big Buck’s to his 22nd career victory.
The Festival Trials Day often throws up intrigue and the odd shock, but all eyes will be on the red, black and white silks of the Stewart Family in the Cleeve and Big Buck’s will hope to saunter to success and cement his place at the head of the latest Ladbrokes World Hurdle Betting and continue his dominance in the staying hurdling division!